August 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 July 2009
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DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action
The Council is expecting a briefing in August by the chairman of the 1718 Sanctions Committee on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). No action in the Council itself is scheduled. However, many Council members have noted how effective and balanced the format involving the whole fifteen members was in discussion of the 6 July press statement from the president.

Key Recent Developments
On 16 July the Committee imposed additional sanctions against a number of DPRK entities and individuals, as well as goods. It was the first list of individuals drawn up by the Committee in line with resolution 1874.

On 12 June the Council adopted resolution 1874, condemning a 25 May underground nuclear test by the DPRK citing it as a violation of resolution 1718 (which imposed sanctions against the country after its nuclear test in October 2006 and set up the Sanctions Committee). The new resolution also expanded the existing arms embargo and authorised the inspection and destruction of banned cargo to and from the DPRK, including on vessels on the high seas.

Resolution 1874 also provided for the creation of a Panel of Experts to support the work of the Committee. The Panel will provide an interim report on its work to the Council within ninety days of the adoption of the resolution.

During the latter half of June a DPRK ship suspected of transporting weapons to Myanmar was placed under US navy surveillance, resulting in the vessel eventually heading back to the DPRK during the week of 30 June. This was the first vessel to be monitored under resolution 1874. The DPRK had earlier indicated that it would treat any interception of its ships as a declaration of war.

In mid-July the DPRK indicated that it considered the six-party talks (among the US, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Russia and the DPRK– from which the latter withdrew in April after the Council condemned its missile launch) dead.

On 4 July the DPRK launched seven ballistic missiles into waters off its east coast in violation of resolutions 1718 and 1874. Some analysts suggest the launches were timed to coincide with the US Independence Day as a deliberate political message, particularly to the US. The launches were also seen as a defiant gesture towards the international community regarding the enforcement of Council sanctions.

On 6 July the Council met in private consultations to discuss the 4 July missile launches. After the meeting, the Council president conveyed Council members’ condemnation of the DPRK’s actions to the press.

During the week of 20 July a war of words ensued between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the DPRK in the context of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Thailand. Clinton likened the behaviour of the DPRK’s leadership to that of recalcitrant “teenagers.” She also said the DPRK would not be rewarded simply for returning to the table. The DPRK’s Foreign Ministry called Clinton unintelligent and likened her to a “funny lady”.

On 21 July the US expressed concern at the possibility that the DPRK was developing military ties with Myanmar.

On 27 July the DPRK indicated that it was open to “a specific and reserved form of dialogue” on its nuclear issue. Some analysts view this unspecified request for a dialogue as being in line with its previously indicated preference for directly resolving differences with the US over its nuclear weapons programme, but excluding six-party talks involving other regional powers. Washington has maintained in the past that it would engage the DPRK in direct talks only if it agrees to return to the six-party talks.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 16 March the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, Vitit Muntarbhorn, presented a report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/10/18). Noting the sufferings of ordinary people, he urged the DPRK to cooperate constructively with UN agencies and other humanitarian actors to ensure effective access to food and other basic provisions.

The Human Rights Council expressed serious concern at human rights violations in the DPRK and urged the country to engage fully and positively with the upcoming universal periodic review of the DPRK, scheduled for December 2009. By a vote of 26 in favour, six against and 15 abstentions, it extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for another year. The DPRK responded by saying that it did not accept the resolution by which the Special Rapporteur was appointed and rejected his report.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is how the DPRK will respond to the steady tightening of the sanctions regime. (Prior to the adoption of the new measures, Pyongyang threatened military retaliation in the event of imposition of UN sanctions and on 26 July the DPRK defence minister threatened to “mercilessly and resolutely counter the enemy’s ‘sanctions’ with retaliation, its ‘all-out war’ with all-out war”.)

An issue for the Sanctions Committee is whether and when to designate further additional individuals and entities for the sanctions list. The Committee indicated in its 16 July letter to the Council that it intended to “continue working on an expedited basis” to identify additional entities and banned goods. (France, Japan, the UK and the US reportedly gave the Committee a number of names which are still being considered pending further clarification on some of them.)

A closely related matter is the establishment of the Panel of Experts mandated by resolution 1874. While the resolution did not specify a deadline for their appointment, it requested that the Panel submit an interim report by 12 September. At press time the Committee was awaiting a list of candidates from the Secretary-General.

Options include:

  • the Committee expanding the sanctions list to include other individuals, entities and goods deemed to be violating resolutions 1718 and 1874 and using the August briefing to the Council to announce the expanded list; and
  • investigating whether the DPRK and Myanmar military cooperation contravenes sanctions.

Council Dynamics
The consensus among Council members to expand the sanctions list twice in three months indicates how far sentiment has shifted over Pyongyang’s increasingly aggressive posture. The DPRK’s 25 May nuclear test was a turning point that narrowed divisions among the P5, with China and Russia accepting that the time had come to press the DPRK more firmly. It is unclear, however, how far China and Russia will support further increments of action against DPRK. (Russia, for instance, has indicated it supports a diplomatic and political solution to the matter.)

Normally, briefings by the chairs of sanction committees are technical. However, because of the current situation the 1718 Committee briefing may be more substantial and elicit further deliberations. In the absence of progress on the diplomatic front, particularly since the DPRK has declared the six-party talks on the issue as dead the Council seems likely to be increasingly engaged on the issue.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1874 (12 June 2009) condemned the DPRK’s 25 May nuclear test, expanded the existing arms embargo and authorised inspection of cargoes to and from the DPRK, as well as vessels on the high seas.
  • S/RES/1718 14 October 2006) expressed grave concern over the DPRK’s nuclear test, imposed sanctions and set up a sanctions committee.

Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2009/7 (13 April 2009) condemned the 5 April launch of a rocket by the DPRK, saying it was in contravention of resolution 1718.
  • S/PRST/2006/41 (6 October 2006) was the statement expressing concern over the DPRK’s declaration that it would conduct a nuclear test.

Sanctions Committee Annual Reports

Selected Letters

  • S/2009/364 (16 July 2009) was the letter from the Sanctions Committee designating additional entities and materials, as well as individuals subject to sanctions.
  • S/2009/222 (24 April 2009) was the letter from the Sanctions Committee designating new entities and materials subject to sanctions.
  • S/2009/205 (14 April 2009) was the letter from the Sanctions Committee updating a list of items, equipment, goods and technology prohibited from being imported or exported by the DPRK.
  • S/2008/547 (11 August 2008) was a letter from the DPRK claiming that the US has been undermining the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (a body supervising the implementation of the 1953 armistice agreement in the Korean War) and has created the nuclear issue in the Korean peninsula by massively supplying South Korea with nuclear weapons.
  • S/2008/435 (3 July 2008) was a letter from the DPRK on the US lifting of major economic sanctions against it.
  • S/2006/481(4 July 2006) was the letter from Japan requesting a meeting of the Security Council after the DPRK launched a ballistic missile.
  • S/1998/866 (17 September 1998) was the letter from the DPRK with a statement on the action of the Council after the launch of a missile on 31 August 1998.
  • S/1998/865 (16 September 1998) was the letter from the DPRK condemning Japan’s action since the DPRK launched a missile on 31 August 1998.
  • S/1998/835 (4 September 1998) was the letter from Japan informing the Council that the DPRK had launched a missile on 31 August 1998.


  • A/HRC/10/18 (24 February 2009) was the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DPRK.
  • A/C.3/63/L.26 (30 October 2008) was a draft resolution before the General Assembly urging the DPRK to put an end to violations of human rights.

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